Let your customers into the club

There is an inner desire in all of us to feel like we’re part of something. We all want to be in the inner circle. We want that VIP status. We want to be recognized. 

Your customers do, too. So, if you can feed into this desire, you’ll turn customers into fans. They’ll become loyal to your brand, rather than nameless entities doing a one-off transaction.

Airlines and hotels know the importance of loyalty. It’s why they always push their frequent traveller programs, with tiered membership levels. They want you to work your way up and feel more special as you do it.

Other companies foster community around their brand. Harley Davidson riders have clubs all over the country. Crossfit speaks to customers with shared values and a shared purpose. This creates very powerful loyalty to their brand.

Ask yourself – what can you do to build community around your company? How can you make your customers feel like they’re part of something special? How can you make them feel recognized?

If you have good answers to those questions, you’re likely on your way to building a very successful business.

Let your customers into the club.

Want to build your customer base and increase loyalty? Geoff and his team at Three Five Two can help. Find out more here.

What’s your niche?

I’m a big believer in starting a business with a niche audience. Why? It’s easiest to identify who your customers could be and how to market to them.

Most newer entrepreneurs come up with ideas that try to serve a very broad market. Their customers could be anyone. But this lack of a very specific target actually makes marketing more difficult, not easier. By starting with a tightly defined group of potential customers, you can figure out how to get to them.

Take a look at their habits. What YouTube videos do they watch? What social accounts are they following? What websites do they read every day? What organizations are they embers of? What trade shows or events do they attend?

Chances are, many of the important players in the niche know each other, so if you can get in with one of them, you now have a connection to lots of them.

Your niche can be based on demographics, occupation, behaviors, geography or lifestage. Better yet, it should be a combination of these. The more specific you can get, the clearer your marketing plan will become.

The best businesses I’ve invested in started with a niche. Many of you know me as the Sports Card Investor. Talk about a niche. My audience is mainly middle-aged men with a passion for sports who collected cards as a kid and are doing it again, only now they’re interested in making a profit from it as well. Knowing so much about my audience made it easier for me to know what content and products to create and how to reach my audience.

But don’t think that starting with a niche means you are limiting your business’ potential. Facebook started with a niche audience – students at one college. Uber started with a niche – limo drivers and passengers in one city. You see where they are now. Focusing on a specific group can accelerate your start, while still letting you expand in the long run.

What’s your niche?

Need to figure out the best audience for your next venture? Geoff and his team at Three Five Two can help. Find out more here.

The upside is so much greater than the downside

That new venture you’ve thought long and hard about will take hundreds of hours to get off the ground.

The fresh product you’ve been waiting to share with the world comes with a $30K price tag just to build the prototype.

That life-changing idea you’ve sat on can’t get off the ground for anything under $150K.

Yes, all three scenarios involve a lot of time and money that you might lose. The first effort you try, you’ll probably fail. Most new businesses don’t make it.

If the project doesn’t work, you’ll have the losses of time and money that were put in. But that’s also all you’ll ever have to lose if things don’t work out. Mathematically, you can’t lose any more than that. You already know the worst that can happen before you’ve even started.

What if the new venture works, though? What if this idea becomes the next big thing? The potential gains literally have no limit. You could be sitting on a concept that could become worth a million or even $100 million.

But let’s take money out of the possibly lucrative equation. Having the satisfaction of getting something off the ground sparks an incredible sense of pride and accomplishment. Who can put a monetary value on carving your own path to the future?

To experience any kind of success, though, you’ve got to take the leap. The leap will cost time, money or some combination of the two. But if you can muster it, I think you should take the jump. 

The upside is so much greater than the downside.

Are you a growing company looking to build a game-changing product? If so, Geoff and his team at Three Five Two can accelerate your mission. Find out more here.

Your second launch is more important than your first

When starting something new, people often make the mistake of striving for perfection. They simply take too long getting whatever they are working on out to the world.

I can speak so candidly on the subject because I made this very mistake with my businesses in the past. I once lost $1 million solely because I kept a product in development for too long to try to make it perfect. By the time it got to market, my competitors had already beaten me to the punch. I took that blow to the gut because I wanted everything to be just right.

What’s actually more important than being perfect when you launch is being the first to evolve and adapt. So, here’s what I’d rather you do: put something out in the world that isn’t perfect. Let the people decide if the idea is right. They’ll always let you know. If it’s right, they’ll tell you how to make it better. If it’s wrong, you can drop it and move on to your next idea before you put in too much time and money into something that has no future.

The key is to be committed to listening to your first customers and rapidly adjusting to meet their needs. This is truly how success with a new project is achieved.

Get it out there. Listen to the feedback.. and evolve quickly.

Your second launch is more important than your first.

Are you a growing company that wants to get a new digital product off the ground? If so, Geoff and his team at Three Five Two can help. Find out more here.

Now is the best time to start

Whatever you dream of doing — the company you’d love to start, the product you’ve been dying to build, the career move you thought about making — there is no better time to begin working at it than right now.

I started my first business in high school. Got my second company rolling in college—and I still run it to this day. Both were damn good times to start. No kids. No mortgage payment. No issue with eating ramen noodles and crashing on the floor of a friend’s house. I had dreams to fulfill and nothing was going to stop them from materializing.

Had I waited, who knows what would have happened?

Every year that goes by, more things will try to hold you back. More responsibilities. More obstacles. More excuses for staying comfortable with the life you’re currently living.

I promise you that, tomorrow, it will be harder for you to take that next step than it is today. Next week, next month and next year will only make it more difficult to make the moves you want to make.

Now is the best time to start.

Making Sense of the Wildest Year of My Life (and What’s Next)

The past year has been like nothing I’ve experienced before, both personally and professionally.

Most of us can probably say this about our personal experience — huddled at home, distanced from friends and family, waiting for COVID to show itself out of our lives — it hasn’t been easy. But I feel very, very fortunate that my family made it through safe and sound, and everyone eligible has now been vaccinated.

While being cooped up for a year wasn’t exactly my first choice, it did bring me great joy in a couple of ways. I got to spend a lot more time with my wonderful wife and kids. Normally I travel often and spend some late nights at the office. That was replaced with special moments and deeper connections with my family. I was also able to invest time in a new hobby — sports card collecting — and that would forever change my professional life in the most unexpected of ways.

Recently, my wife introduced me to a friend as a “YouTube Influencer.” Two years ago, I would have died laughing at that intro. But 7 million YouTube views later, I guess that’s a fitting job title for me now.

Six months before the pandemic hit, I started a YouTube channel called Sports Card Investor. It was a nights-and-weekends project, outside of my core focus of running my growth agency, Three Five Two, and investing in and mentoring tech startups. I predicted that sports cards were about to explode in popularity again, like they did in the late 1980s. I saw a ton of business and investment opportunity in the sports card market, so I wanted to get ahead of it by creating content that no one else was creating at the time.

My prediction came true, my YouTube channel quickly gained some viewers, and I was thrilled. I had 5,100 YouTube subscribers at the end of 2019 (for comparison, today we’re approaching 100,000 YouTube subscribers, and our website, social media channels and podcast have hundreds of thousands of followers). I felt good enough about the audience growth that I decided to hire my own agency, Three Five Two, to build a sports card tracking and price guide platform called Market Movers. This would give me a way to monetize my side hustle, by selling subscriptions to my YouTube audience.

When I launched Market Movers in February of 2020, my goal was to get 100 paid subscribers by the end of the month. I reached that goal in the first day, and was adding hundreds more each week.

Then the pandemic hit. The sports world stopped. The stock market crashed. And, for a few weeks, sports cards were the last thing on everyone’s mind.

I was pretty sad. I had just launched Market Movers and had great early success, but new subscriptions stopped coming in. And the traction my YouTube channel had been getting suddenly slowed.

Here’s the crazy thing though: a few weeks later, everything changed. As people were stuck at home, and there weren’t any games to watch on TV, they began collecting sports cards again. The hobby took off like a rocket ship, and along with it, so did Sports Card Investor.

I wasn’t ready for it. I was suddenly working non-stop, 24/7, to keep up with the demand. I hired my first two employees for Sports Card Investor in April of 2020 (today, we have 20, and we’re continuing to hire like crazy). Last summer I opened a Sports Card Investor Studio in Midtown, Atlanta, and this summer we’ll be expanding into a new studio space about four times larger. My side hustle quickly became what was possibly the fastest growing startup in Atlanta in 2020 — all during a pandemic.

But while Sports Card Investor was accelerating beyond anything I had envisioned… my agency, Three Five Two, was struggling. We lost some customers during early stages of the pandemic as they slashed their digital marketing budgets, and tensions were high within my leadership team. Our entire business development strategy was based on in-person events, which of course were no longer possible. For the first time in while, I felt like I didn’t have the answers. I wasn’t sure how to help Three Five Two or calm the internal conflicts that were peaking.

It was an incredible dichotomy: one of my ventures was thriving beyond my wildest expectations (and I was having sooooo much fun with it), while another was struggling and needed a new path forward that wasn’t clear to me.

I thought a lot about what was making Sports Card Investor grow so quickly, why Three Five Two wasn’t on the same trajectory… and how exactly I fit into each company’s future success. Entrepreneurship is in my blood, so starting something new gives me a rush of energy like nothing else. Sports Card Investor was giving me that. Creating content — especially videos — is a passion of mine, too. And even though I had forgotten about it for many years, Sports Card Investor gave me that back too. Most people don’t even realize that I majored in broadcast journalism in college. My life goal back then was to become a sports anchor on ESPN. I never pursued that goal because I started Three Five Two while still in college. But creating videos for Sports Card Investor reinvigorated that passion.

So, after a lot of thought, I made a big change at the end of last year. I stepped out of the day-to-day management of Three Five Two. I appointed Robert Berris to be Managing Director. Robert has been a key leader at Three Five Two for seven years and he has a strong, compelling vision for the future. I felt Robert was the right person to guide the company through the turbulence — and more importantly, he was the right person to lead Three Five Two to the big, bright future I know it has. I also elevated the role of my very savvy long-time business partner, Caroline Blake, to provide guidance, wisdom and leadership to help Three Five Two thrive. I’m pleased to report that Robert, Caroline and the rest of the Three Five Two team have really righted the ship this year. The company is growing quickly once again and producing awesome results for clients.

I promised my team at Three Five Two I would help the company grow — but in a much different way than I had over the past 20 years. I am seizing the opportunity with the audience I have built at Sports Card Investor, and combining it with my passion for entrepreneurship, mentorship and content creation, to create new content focused on business and startup advice. I have two goals for this: One is to give back and inspire other entrepreneurs and business leaders to achieve greater things. My second goal is to have the business leaders in my audience check out the awesome digital product and business growth services that Three Five Two offers. I seek to help new clients discover Three Five Two, while Robert, Caroline and the rest of my great team deliver exceptional work for them.

It all starts now. This website, geoffwilson.com, will be updated weekly with my startup and business advice articles. My YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will also get regular posts and videos about building and launching new products and starting new ventures. I hope my audience finds it all really useful.

At age 41, I unexpectedly built a sports card content empire. At age 42, I’m excited to create what’s next, yet again.

Follow me to keep up with my adventures and see my latest business content: YouTube | Spotify | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn